Causes of Drowsiness
Sleepiness, or drowsiness, is an often overlooked and actually somewhat serous medical condition. It can be a sign of a sleep disorder, depression, and anxiety though these generally are mixed with fatigue and apathy as well. It can have serious consequences for your heath such as high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes. In 2009 it was reported that fewer than 20% of people were getting more than six hours of sleep at night. Sleepiness also causes sufferers to have interferences within their work day and social functioning as they have difficulty concentrating, harder times with emotional control, and have even been known to fall asleep while driving.
Drowsiness can be caused by a multitude of different things. Certain sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, where in the throat is blocked temporarily while sleeping causing what’s known as snoring to occur wakes the body up temporarily. If this happens many times throughout the night a good restfulness cannot be had and sleepiness may occur. Others suffer from chronic insomnia problems which can be caused by anxiety, in which the sufferer cannot sleep due to overwhelming stress –which can be caused by the sleepiness itself, creating a kind of feedback loop—or more environmental factors such as graveyard shift work, where they work all night and find themselves having trouble sleeping during the day.
Insomnia is a common complaint, and is generally seen as a symptom of a larger issue, but it can be adisorder in itself. It manifests as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for no apparent reason other than sleeplessness. Many sufferers complain of something called “brain chatter” in which their mind is unable to quiet itself down from the day. Another common issues is that of Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and it causes a compulsion for a person to move their legs while laying down. The sufferer may also feel burning or crawling and other painful sensations in their legs as they try to sleep. A related disorder is called periodic limb movement disorder where the legs and arms jerk and twitch around during sleep waking the sufferer up repetitively.
Some attempt to combat this sleepiness, however it is occurring, with caffeine and other stimulants. This works as a temporary fix but the issue is as they become more dependent on the substance to stay awake, they take it later and later throughout the day meaning by the time it is actually time to sleep the afflicted insomniac cannot sleep and will require more caffeine the next day. The loop goes on like this for many.
Odd behaviors can begin to develop in severe of drowsiness, where one may suffer from a sudden “sleep attack” in which a person may fall asleep uncontrollably throughout the day. Some even end up sleep walking where they go about some task their mind has created but are actually asleep and dreaming causing odd erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior to the sleep walker.
The common symptoms of drowsiness from a sleep disorder or from not getting enough sleep include routinely taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. If the patient is lying in bed hours at a time routinely unable to fall asleep, they may have a serious problem. Regularly waking up over and over again and having trouble getting back to sleep is common as well and can be quite aggravating. Arms and legs jerking frequently throughout the night or loud choking and snoring sounds, these are usually reported only by a spouse or partner but in severe cases can be noticed by the individual and are symptoms of sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Some report vivid and dream-like experiences or hallucinations when attempting to fall asleep and in some cases sleep paralysis, where the patient is unable to move but the mind is awake and dreaming. Muscle fatigue during moments of stress when awake can occur as well. There are many symptoms to sleep deprivation and drowsiness.
As drowsiness and insomnia are complex complaints that can be caused by a large number of issues there are many solutions to try to fix the problem. If visiting the doctor they cannot pinpoint the exact cause of the insomnia, prescription sleep aids may be recommended. These do generally work but they come with numerous side-effects such as odd behaviors while sleeping, such as the aft-mentioned sleepwalking, and can be dangerous if taken in too large of quantities. Many also report increased drowsiness upon first waking up as the medicine is still in their system.
A life-style change may be recommended as well, such as exercising or a dietary change, but as the fatigue of sleepiness sets in it is difficult to motivate oneself to get out and exercise. Other natural alternatives are available. Melatonin is recommended by many doctors as it is the hormone in the brain that helps regulate the sleep and waking cycle, sometimes the brain can be lacking in this chemical causing the insomnia in the first place. Valerian root is a natural sedative that has been used for a long length of time as a way to fall asleep, and actually help stay asleep. Though, its effectiveness is debated and can take several weeks to begin working. Another old and natural sleep aid that has been used for centuries is that of the medicalCannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system in the human brain has recently been shown to be highly important in the regulation of sleep patterns. This hormonal system of the brain is named such as the chemicals of Cannabis, or Marijuana, stimulate this area which effects sleep cycles, circulatory systems, and many more areas of the body. Some studies even report that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system in the brain can because of the insomnia in the first place. Users of cannabis have been shown to have increased sleep, better sleep regulation patters, and less drowsiness in waking hours.